Lessons from the Turkey Earthquake. Can we be better prepared for such an eventuality?

The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria when the earth shook violently inflicting unimaginable trauma, claiming 50k lives and shaking up the thousands of those who survived death with wounds that might change their lives for as long as they live.

“Natural disasters’ are of 2 types: some that can be predicted, such as cyclones, where major advances in satellite technology and evacuation drives have reduced deaths significantly, while some such as earthquakes that are difficult to forecast.

1. Needless to say, modern buildings need to be “earthquake resistant”. Japan, a very earthquake-prone place, has significantly reduced impact of earthquakes on their buildings and peoples’ lives. Earthquakes still happen there, buildings do shake violently at times, but they rarely collapse like a pack of cards and kill its inhabitants.

2. The prime reaction evoked by shaking of the earth is FEAR; It generates either a FLIGHT or FIGHT response. Most who could, would have run to open spaces and escaped buildings and debris falling on their heads.

3. If one found oneself alive and conscious, the fear of missing loved ones can be overwhelming, a mother standing up to see her home reduced to debris with fear that her family could be trapped there.

4. For those who lost so much so suddenly, went through (still undergoing) !various stages of the GRIEF response: initial denial (this can’t be happening to me! Am I having a nightmare?), anger (why did the rescuers take so long? Why did the government allow this to happen?), bargaining (why did I not die instead of my son?), sadness and then finally acceptance (God’s will or Destiny!).

5. India’s disaster response has undoubtedly improved and matured as survival data from cyclones in recent years have shown. Induction of canine squad (4 dogs were taken by the mission to trace human bodies or survivors) was a great step!

6. Most mature international disaster response teams include a squad of psychologists and counsellors, who help people in their darkest bewildering hours. We need to build our strength there too!

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